After the much-loved, yet much-feared, 1986 Stephen King source novel and classic 1990 TV miniseries, arguably the most famous work of coulrophobia-inducing fiction hits the big screen awash with hype. What a shame, then, that it doesn’t live up to that.
The biggest problem is that 2017 It is just not scary enough. Not for lack of trying: director Andy Muschietti (Mama) throws pretty much everything at the audience, as the titular demon manifests itself into an array of grotesque forms. The first half of the movie plays like a kind of horror sketch show, with scene after scene each featuring a different member of the young cast. Yet none of these deliver any jump-out-of-your-skin moments, and there’s a propensity to show too much of the (largely CG) creations, often in broad daylight. The standout sequence involves a slide projector taking on a disturbing life of its own.
An unrecognisable Bill Skarsgård has fun with a creepy voice and a killer stare, but is too often replaced by less effective CGI. Among the young stars, Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, The Book of Henry) again capably portrays a precocious but troubled youngster while Sophia Lillis impresses as the only girl in the group, Bev.
Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard, though, is saddled with a constant stream of wisecracks, even at the most unlikely moments, which tend to diminish any sense of fear. The tone overall is a problem – with efforts to insert comedic beats falling as flat as most of the scares.
Overlong and plodding at times, a game group of young actors can’t elevate this formulaic and predictable effort above mediocrity. King completists may be interested and anyone already suffering a fear of clowns will be freaked out, but hardcore horror fans will be left cold.
CAST: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard
DIRECTOR: Andy Muschietti
WRITERS: Chase Palmer & Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman (screenplay), Stephen King (novel)
SYNOPSIS: When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise.